When All Goes Awry…

Today was the day for catastrophic housekeeping failures.

And my best friend (and partner in film making crime) Dan said I should make a blog post of it, so that all of my loyal readers can discover that even The Culinary Nerd has her off day in the kitchen. That way they can take heart when all goes awry in their kitchens and know that they are not alone, for lo, The Culinary Nerd is with thee.

And with thee, I most certainly am today.

It didn’t actually start in the kitchen.

It started in the adjacent utility room. I went to do some laundry, so I put a load in the washer, then went to clear the load out of the dryer from yesterday and discovered something.

Something bad.

Something really bad.

A ballpoint pen had been washed and dried. And had thus leaked its ink all over the load of laundry and worse, the drum of the dryer.

Luckily, no clothes were harmed in this debacle. The load had been the bathroom rug which had been helpfully watered by a visiting two year old who didn’t quite make it to the potty, along with all of my farmer’s market bags, dishtowels and cleaning rags. The pen likely was in one of the bags, but it could have been dropped in the pile of cleaning clothes by accident.

However, while none of the clothes were touched by ink, two dishtowels I had embroidered by hand WERE marked hideously by splotches and splortches of blue-black ink.

I was strong.

I neither cried nor threw anything.

I just ran to the internet to find out what would remove ink from a dryer drum.

Hairspray said one site. Goo Gone or Oops! said another. (These are commercial solvents that do great work on crayons, sticker gunk and bubble gum.) Nail polish remover.

Then a fourth site said “Rubbing alcohol.”

I was suddenly reminded of my senior year of high school, when my then boyfriend had taken up a Sharpie marker and had written, “Aardvarks Have More Fun” in large letters across a classroom wall. And then admitted it to our journalism teacher. While she marched off to get the principal, he and I skedaddled to the chemistry lab where we beseeched our favorite teacher for a solvent to solve our wee dilemma.

He handed us a gallon-sized container of industrial grade isopropyl alcohol and sent us on our way with the admonition that unlike water which is just called “the universal solvent,” isopropyl alcohol really did dissolve just about anything you’d use to put a mark on a wall.

Which it did. My boyfriend wiped it off the newly painted eye-bleeding yellow wall, while under the eyes of ten fellow students and then handed me the jug and sent me off to return it to the lab.

By the time she got there with the vice principal, there wasn’t even any fumes left to tell the tale.

And all of the students smilingly denied knowing anything about any aardvarks having anything looking like fun in that general vicinity. Since there was no proof of vandalism, no one got in trouble, though I suspect that incident, along with a few others, probably drove the poor journalism teacher to drink.

So, with aardvarks and graffiti dancing in my head, I went to get my rubbing alcohol, and found that there was barely a tablespoon left in the entire house.

So, I went out to buy several bottles of it and returned. (Mind you, it’s nearly time to pick up Kat from art camp, and the laundry is still not done.)

So, pour, pour, wipe, wipe, scrub, scrub, cough, sputter, cough, swoon, sneeze, swoon, gasp.

Yeah, I discovered that even with the household strength alcohol you can get at the drugstore, you really shouldn’t stick your head in the drum of a dryer while you try and clean it. The fumes are….um….heady. And unpleasant.

On the other hand, how the hell you are supposed to see what you are doing while cleaning ink out of the dryer drum with alcohol without sticking your head in and feeling a bit fumy is more than I can tell you.

So, I’d clean for a while, start gasping and coughing and then would take a rest and breathe fresh air from the open windows.

After an hour of scrubbing, and a break to go pick Kat up in a torrential rainstorm, I managed to get it clean. Then, I had to let it air out, lest I stick laundry in it, turn it on and the alcohol fumes ignite with the gas flame that warms the dryer.

So, I figured while I was waiting for the airing out process to do it’s job, I’d go into the kitchen and see how my newly fermented yogurt was doing while it was straining.

Yes, I’ve taking up culturing my own dairy products. And yes, there will be more posts. In fact, I had planned today to write a post about making yogurt, but well, things got in the way.

Like ink stains in the dryer and on my towels. (Though the alcohol also took most of the ink out of the towels as well. Which is good, because I worked really hard on the embroidery.)

Anyway, I cut down the yogurt and promptly splashed whey on the counter and when I squeezed the cheesecloth wrapped yogurt lightly, discovered that the cheesecloth I was using was not finely woven enough to let the liquid out without letting out too much of the yogurt solids. Even with four layers of it employed, I ended up with yogurt squirted up one arm and down my chest.

So, yeah.

Another mess to clean up. Which I did, but I was mighty grumpy to have lost so much yogurt.

However, after licking it off my hand, (waste not, want not–besides my hand had been scrupulously washed in hot water and soap before touching the wayward dairy product) I discovered that the taste was better than the last batch, so I was getting somewhere in making my own personal blend of cultures in my quest for Greek yogurt that is even better than the creamy and dense commercially available Fage.

So, I scraped the yogurt out of the useless four layers of cheesecloth into a glass storage jar, which ended with lots of cursing and attempts to pry the sticky zillion yards of cloth off my person.

And then I did some more laundry, which did not result in the house catching fire, so I must have done that right.

While that was going, I decided to start preparing to make dinner. It WAS going to be ma po tofu with dry fried string beans and steamed jasmine rice.

I always make the rice first, so I measured out two cups of rice, rinsed it and popped open the rice cooker, ready to pour the rice in, and gagged when I was confronted by a swarm of fruit flies, and the stomach churning odor of rotted rice.

The last time the rice cooker had been used was two weeks ago when I was in Reno, Nevada, at a family meeting. Morganna had made Thai food for Zak and Kat while I was gone and no one had cleaned out the rice cooker.

I scrubbed it clean, swooned, gagged and scrubbed it some more and declared that I was not about to eat rice tonight, and called Zak to tell him my adventures.

He agreed we’d go out to eat and I thought nothing of it.

I cleaned the kitchen, finished the laundry and thought it was all over.

However, I was wrong.

The pork I had thawed out for the ma po tofu had leaked pink raw pork juice all over the microwave.

It dripped out and down, onto the toaster, the counter top and…the bowl of heirloom tomatoes from my garden below.

The tomatoes nearly made me cry.

I tossed them in the compost bucket to feed my worms, then scrubbed everything on that side of the kitchen clean again, putting the turntable from the microwave into the dishwasher and cleansing every nook and cranny of the toaster inside and outside.

I put the pork back in the fridge after double-bagging and resealing it, and after Zak came home, we went out for dinner.

I even ate a piece of cheesecake for dessert–which is something I NEVER do, especially when I am not sure what the hell went into the making of said cheesecake.

But it tasted pretty good, and I didn’t have to make it myself.

Because lord knows what would have happened if I’d turned my hand to cheesecake today.

The water bath probably would have exploded or something.

That all said–I want to let all of you know–shit happens. It happens in quantities large and small, sprinkled throughout a week, or like I had, all in one day.

And when it does, the best thing to do, is shake your head, laugh, clean up the mess and then have some cheesecake.

Because even bad cheesecake makes a bad day better.


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  1. Oy vey, what a day! At least it ended in cheesecake. Me, I’d probably have needed a martini as well at that point.

    Comment by Laura B. — July 25, 2012 #

  2. Wow! That post made me adore you even more. I’m so glad you’re back.

    Comment by Gretchen — July 25, 2012 #

  3. Wow, you cleaned that rice cooker yourself? You are a better person than I.

    Comment by Noah — July 25, 2012 #

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